Somnambule - Writing About Music

Pauline Oliveros ~ Tara’s Room

The sound of the accordion is probably most often associated with European folk music or the plangent tones of Argentinian tango. However the 72 year old American composer Pauline Oliveros has opened up new vistas for the instrument. The Beauty Of Sorrow features Oliveros playing an accordion tuned to just intonation (the system also used by the likes of LaMonte Young and Harry Partch) and fed through delay processors. The resulting 25 minute piece consists of long drawn out tones that insinuate themselves into the environment. Such is their patient duration that they appear to form a second, musical structure within the physical one in which the music is heard. The shape of this sonic space suggests the coolness of Appalachian mountain air or the vibration of power cables in desert winds, rather than anything as mundane as, say, domestic architecture. The liner notes for this piece inform the reader that it “is intended to assist the listener in connecting and relaxing with deep feelings” and Oliveros’s piece ably achieves its aim. The title track that follows “is an invocation for wisdom especially during an unfamiliar journey”. In fact the unfamiliar journey may just be the music itself which is a strange, lengthy beast, measured out in groans, chants and rattles. It might equally serve as saturnine rite to the drone god of deepest night as soundtrack to a trip for a job interview. Oliveros is again the sole performer whose spoken mantra opens out kaleidoscopically against a backdrop of electronic percussion and spooked flute wooshes. Subtitled ‘Two Meditations On Transition And Change’, both pieces bear a remarkable sense of contemplative suspension and Tara’s Room in particular is strikingly odd.
Colin Buttimer
February 2005
Published by Grooves magazine